Kony 2012 – Slactivism & Marketing Success


The big viral success of 2012 so far, has to be the Kony 2012 video, despite defying the rules of successful viral marketing by opting for a long length (almost 30 mins). Not only that, but it transpires that this is actually Invisible Children‘s eleventh video attempt in the last 8 years. None of the others were successful. This version was successful, more successful than I believe they expected, and this was in spite of the high production element which makes us wonder where the money is actually coming from, let alone how much of this is spin. Over 76 million views on YouTube later, I think we can however call this a success.

I’m not saying it is wrong to want to pull the world’s attention to something as horrific as the crimes happening in this instance, far from it, but at what point does watching a video and perhaps pressing the ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons actually make us activists in any way? How can this help?

I saw an interesting quote recently:

“Kony 2012 is a masterpiece of simplification. They boiled a massive, heart wrenching, overwhelming problem down into a single man… Finally, and I think most brilliantly, even the target himself was simple. If the campaign had been Mugabe 2012, would it have been as successful? I don’t think so. We know Mugabe. If they were going to get him, they’d have gotten him by now, right? He’s complicated. But I haven’t heard of this guy Kony before. So not only do I get that wonderful social rush from spreading new news, but he feels eminently beatable. If we all got together I bet we could do it. And all I have to do is share. Simple.”

Now instead of helping, we find that the Ugandan screening of the Kony film actually has angered the victims.

Victor Ochen, director of a local charity who arranged the show, said:

“People were very angry about the film….There was a strong sense that the video was definitely not produced for an African audience, and that it was not sensitive enough to the victims. It was very hurtful for them and their families to see posters, bracelets and buttons, all looking like slick campaign ads of the person most responsible for their shattered lives. One young man who lost four brothers and one of his arms said afterwards ‘How can anybody expect me to wear a Tshirt with Kony’s name on it?’

For all the victims, the attempt to make Kony famous so as to prop up public support for his apprehension is laudable, but the way the goal is being pursued in the video is inappropriate and ignores their feelings. The fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering…”

It hasn’t helped that the video is not including the local people, it is about a white person and not about the victims. There are now calls to ban the ‘Stop Kony’ Tshirts from entering Uganda.

One man, Mr Jifony, who was forced to fight under Kony for 18 months, said “We expected serious action, Americans fighting Kony like in a real movie” but it seems they are disappointed, being left offended and surrounded by Kony paraphernalia.

Meanwhile in the rest of the world, we all feel nice and smug at having helped the cause by sharing the video on Facebook, or promoting it around the office. Perhaps we even went to town and tweeted. Great stuff, but awareness is one thing, action another. Slactivism is perpetuated by social media as we feel like we can hide behind the Internet and help by proxy, by doing something we were going to be doing anyway – interacting online.

I commend Kony 2012 as a huge viral marketing success, but perhaps not the way to change the world on this one. Sadly, I might be right on this one, as the Ugandan reaction to the video seems to agree.

What next? Well, that will be something I’m eagerly awaiting…



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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Crime, Events, Multiculturalism, People, Politics, Law


Digital and Comms nerd working in an INGO. PhD researcher (technology / gender / International development / fragile and conflict affected states / South Sudan). Bibliophile. Writer. Musician. Views my own.

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5 Comments on “Kony 2012 – Slactivism & Marketing Success”

  1. thatchernj01
    March 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    I really appreciate your talent and skill in writing on this specific issue 🙂 it is definitely something that has really won its majority on social media and warm fuzziness when in reality nothing that was or has been done in this campaign thus far has done anything worthwhile to make an impact. So thank you for writing on this 🙂 have a great day

  2. October 2, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    That’s a anagry looking SAVAGE…….


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  3. KONY 2012 « jonathanjjensen - March 31, 2012

    […] many millions in such a short period of time. One might wonder exactly how they did it. The website interntious.com, a controversial news and issues source, mentions that the huge success of the video may be in part […]

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